Whip out those tissues friends

I just wanted to take a moment to share this lovely video. It definitely made me cry, but I guess I'm kind of already had a heart for this, eh?

Um, hi! August begins tomorrow! What is going on?! I leave for a holiday this Friday then it will practically be September. September brings another mission group, then October! That will likely be my last full month here but more on that later this week. Is time flying by for you? 


Memory Monday v8.0

One small fact that you may or may not know about me is that I am a huge N-E-R-D. When I was in second grade I finished my years worth of book reports in the first month, if not quicker. I both loved reading getting stuff done. I think that was the point in my academic career that my parents knew they wouldn't have to worry about me (in school anyhow, Lord knows I've given them a run for their money in a variety of other ways.)  I always read the books we were assigned through out school and have never cracked open a Cliff Note in my life. This brings me to one of my favorite summer memories:

The summer reading club at the local library. I'm sure libraries all over did these but I am certain that the one in my hometown had to have been the best. I remember looking forward to the start of the summer reading club every summer for many years. My mom, sisters and I would pile into the car and head down to update our reading logs every week. The walk across the sizzling hot parking lot made the cold blast of the air conditioned library that much more sweet. The smell of books would waft out and immediately make me anticipate what finds I would make that week. I deposited my most recent reads into the collection bin and remember seeing the workers' hands through the slits organizing my returns. We'd walk in just a bit further before the family split and headed to their respective sections. I'd excitedly go to the reading club set-up and have my log verified. Some summers you got to put stickies all over the pane glass windows as you progressed. I remember the program had goals you had to advance through and they changed as you grew older. I am sure that there was some sort of prize at the end of it all but clearly none of that mattered as I couldn't tell you one single prize I ever received at the end of the summer. Spending hours in the library sitting in aisle after aisle, deciding what I would choose was my week's most agonizing decision. Oh how I despised the borrowing limits!

Somehow all of us girls always found each other and shared what we picked. Standing in the line to checkout was agonizing, I just wanted to be curled in my bedroom reading already. My library card was one of my most prized possessions and I was so proud the summer that I was old enough to borrow with my own library card instead of under one of my parents'. I'd gaze around at the stacks other people in line held, the library seemed to have something for everyone. We'd all check out and pile back into the car. I'd spend the ride home looking through my picks, deciding which I'd read first. By the time I got home I was ready to curl up and spend the afternoon in the pages of a book.

The week would fly by and I would inevitably finish my books before it was time to return, just making the anticipation of my favorite summertime tradition that much greater! 



When someone single handedly ruins an entire band for you (ahem "Band of Horses"), you want to call them in the wee hours of their morning and thank them. Not in a genuine kind of way but more in the vein of "I'm saying thank you but it sounds more like screw you" kind of way. Because I believe in living life with no regrets and I feel that someone should know if they've ruined an entire band which you used to sing along to at the top of your lungs.

I mean, I didn't ask you to come out of our room unsolicited and tell me that this was the song we were going to dance to at our wedding. And I certainly didn't ask you to come home three, maybe four weeks later and tell me that I no longer had a place in what turns out to be your tiny world. Now I'm stuck with two albums that I downloaded from iTunes that I can't return. That's like $19.98 worth of mp3s which would buy 2-3 weeks worth of food for me here in India so this is some serious shit. I checked their whole "terms and agreements" and it took me awhile to get through it but what I gleaned from that doozy of a contractual agreement is that iTunes won't hand out refunds just because some dude you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with spews weightless garble from his bearded face. Now I can't even type out the words "Band of Horses" without wanting to sign on to Skype and wake you up half way around the world in the hopes of making you PayPal me back that $19.98.

So, I'm left here developing what is known as the three pillars of my future life which decidedly excludes wasting any time on pursuing inter-sex relationships. It's not because I'm bitter (right?) but it's more because I don't think it's fair to "Band of Horses" that I'm running over their albums with tractors in my mind of minds. They don't deserve that- no one does. Except for maybe Shaquille O'Neal because, honestly, what was he thinking when he decided to release "The Best of Shaquille O'Neal" back in '96. Don't think I forgot about that just because I was eleven at the time Shaq. Stick to what you're good at.

I digress. The real point is that the Skype icon is beckoning me; it begs me to seek redemption in honor of all music ruined in the wake of plans laid to rest. I can't do that though, because I'm non-confrontational by nature. Never mind the fact that I don't want to waste precious Skype minutes that could otherwise be used yelling "I think my internet connection is too slow!" at the people I love. 

Come on skinny love, what happened here?

For the last 10+ years going to shows has been one of my major stress reliefs in my life. I love live music and find it really therapeutic. Since there is a huge void there now, I find myself obsessively watching youtube videos instead. I have no expectation that anyone will sit there and watch all of these but it is really convenient for me, as now all my recent favorites are in one spot :) 

(I was right up in the front for this one)

(From one of THE most amazing tour line ups ever, this video still gives me chills)

(Because Andy Hull deserves 2 shout outs) 

I'll be back tomorrow with a less obnoxious post!


The best laid plans

July has been a rough month on the health front for me and as much as I try to keep this little blog on the up and up sometimes that isn't the reality. We had a mission these last 7 days and I was excited to document it and get situated at the bedside caring for patients. Unfortunately the only place I found myself at was my own bed and bathroom. The first week of July I came down with a GI bug and was out for the count for about a week and spent the following week trying to find my appetite. Then the mission came, the bug had already been circulating around the local nurses then it hit some people in the mission team. Then it came back full circle to me again this week. It was even worse this time but luckily we were able to catch it earlier and so I've spent less time dehydrated. I am on heavy anti-amoebic drugs and things are looking like they're under control. Still, I feel weak. I know I look worse for wear and am feeling emotionally fragile (as if I wasn't already, right?)

To put it in perspective: Anyone who even kind of knows me knows I love to dance. I mean, I'm no professional but my moves have been known to stop time. I've danced buttons off my shorts and broken a watch while doing the robot to a beat . I've been kicked out of buildings for setting fire to the floor, my moves are so hot. I. Love. Dancing. Tonight is the final party for the mission which usually involves loud music and westerners dressed up in Indian gear. Most importantly, it involves me testing out my newest Bollywood moves for hours on end. I got all geared up and went down to the car only to find myself back in my room curled up in the fetal position five minutes later.

See there I go again, try to pep up a "woe-is-me" post. The truth is I am feeling so run down physically and not at like myself. I tried calling my sister and one of my closest friends because I wanted some distraction and to try and rid myself of the blues but alas, the internet connection is too slow for anyone to be able to hear me. Okay, but that's enough. I guess the real point is that 95% of living here and away from everyone I love is awesome and worthwhile. Then there's the three weeks where walking 10 feet feels more like running 10 miles and doing the robot requires both physical and mental preparation. (And then there's the 20 consecutive people who point out how bad you're looking, with the best of intentions. You have to have a tough shell to live here because honesty is the policy apparently.)

Now I'm going to awkwardly insert photos because I don't know how to end a really honest post unless it's really positive:
A gathering around the all-powerful board

PACU in full swing

The kids love the toys (Robin!)

 In other news: My ipod decided to resurface after a 2 month hiatus in my left rain boot

Thank you Allison for my sweet letter and homey towel

These pants are made for little boys. Yes, I'm the crazy American who doesn't conform to traditional gender specific clothing

When you have to wear sun glasses on gloomy days to keep the dirt out of your eyeballs

Around the block
1. Barber walla   2. Mail post
3. Mobile pastry walla   4. Laundry walla

 All gussied up with no where to go


Get your fix

Around these parts betel leaf/paan and betel nut are really popular choices of stimulants. I am guessing they kind of have a stimulant factor like cigarettes and betel seems to be really cheap because SO many people from even the poorest areas have teeth stained red from chewing. Every country seems to have their vices and paan is one here in India. You also do find cigarettes and smokers too but not to the extent that you would in other countries. Imagine my surprise when I was at the bread bakery (by the way, they were out of bread that day and I yelled "Where's the bread?!?!" on my way out, something only my flatmates would appreciate) and I saw this:

Liquid nicotine. With caffeine. It reminds me of that questionable drinking trend "Four loco" from the states minus the alcohol. Essentially, it is my worst nightmare in a can.

I have had the craziest week!! On Friday we started screening for our July mission and the mission team arrived. I woke up Saturday morning and it was pouring rain. I went to put on my rain boots for the first time in 2 months and felt something in my left boot. I pulled it back off, turned it over and out slid my missing ipod touch! What the what?!?! I lost that thing during a late night on the May mission. I assumed it was long gone and being enjoyed by someone else. I never got upset when I lost it, as it was my fault and not an essential item. How could I freak out over losing an ipod when there are whole families living under the ramp of the hospital? Anyways, one of my roomies said that it was my good karma from my positive attitude when I lost it that kept it safe in my boot all this time! So it's back!

Friday night I went to a metal show! Heavy metal is really popular in India. I went to the show because our child life specialist's boyfriend is a musician. One of his musical ventures is a metal band which he is the vocalist for. I was so excited to go see them play! I felt right at home at the show, it reminded me of small shows at chain reaction and what not. The music was very Isis/Opeth like. I was beyond happy. I even ran into a guy wearing an AILD shirt! To put AILD in perspective: their first cd came out 10 years ago almost exactly. The first time I saw them was at a church in San Diego 10 years ago with about 30 people there. They were playing with Point of Recognition and Noise Ratchet and it still was one of my favorite shows ever. They've since been on huge tours (Ozzfest, Warped tour, Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, etc) and been nominated for a grammy. Now you can find people in off the maps places in India who listen to their music. Blows my mind.

My stomach illness is also back. I seem to have passed it to many of our local nurses, then to my roommates then to the mission team and now back to me. It doesn't seem as bad as two weeks ago, but I am so not happy! I thought I paid my dues but I guess not. I went to work yesterday morning and got sent home because I am infective :(

That didn't stop me from seeing the last Harry Potter last night with 15 others!! I have been obsessively watching the old movies to prep for the release of Deathly Hallows part 2 and last night a large group of us went to watch it. I had no idea I was surrounded by that many fans. The movie flew by and I felt myself tearing up a bit at the end. On a sidenote: why can't a buy the books for my kindle reader on my mac? Apparently Rowlings doesn't support electronic book readers?

I've gotten my fix of metal and nerd-dom this week, what about you?


This I know for sure...

I love Danielle's journal days!! I decided to join in this week and here is the prompt! Make sure to head over to her blog and see everyone else's responses as well as hers! 

The older we get, the more certain we get about who we are and what our purpose is.  For me, a lot of it is still unknown, but as I make my way down my own path, I have begun to realize that there are indeed some inevitable truths that I know for sure. On your own blog, write a post that talks about "the one thing you know for sure."

This year has come with many life changes for me. Standing here in July 2011, I realize that I am fulfilling what is perhaps the one and only thing I have ever known for sure. 

I have wanted to work in the medical field since I was a child though it wavered between veterinary medicine, medical school, and nursing. In high school I set my heart on being a nurse and went forward full steam to work towards that goal. When I was sixteen I saw myself in the future living in remote areas of the world using my knowledge as a nurse to help developing countries. I envisioned myself in small villages in Africa, or China or anywhere the world might take me. I knew of a nurse and her husband who travelled together for short periods of time and she really inspired me. One thing I knew for sure was that if I followed my dream of being a nurse, it couldn't end there. It couldn't stop in the community I was from, I couldn't keep it to myself. I knew that humanitarian work was in my future. 

Then life happened. I graduated high school, got into the college I wanted, got accepted to the nursing program and finished in the quickest time frame possible. I landed what at some point became my dream job in a pediatric ICU in Orange County, moved and settled into life as a working adult. It seemed that my life was falling into place, a place I never really knew I wanted to be. I was heading down the path of a traditional American life and I had no problem with it. I had a boyfriend whom I loved dearly, we dreamt together of owning a home, having two little boys and growing old together. I'm not sure when it happened but I allowed the one thing I knew for sure to take a backseat in the grand scheme of my life dreams. Two years in, the one thing I knew started to re-surface in my every day thoughts. I remembered the NGO I now volunteer with and all of a sudden I had this unquenchable thirst to pursue working with them. I went forward and it took six months or more but I found myself in India for the first time back in February. Before I left, my life re-centered around the work I did there and I knew I had to make some big changes. 

It all fell into place perfectly, two months later I moved and have never felt more content than I do now. I had to leave behind the traditional American life and accept the reality that who I truly am is the same as who I knew I was when I was sixteen. I felt like I was set free from the pursuit of things I wasn't sure of and replaced it the pursuit of the one thing I knew I wanted. Everyone knows that sixteen year old you will be infinitely different than twenty six year old you, but I have learned something incredibly valuable:

Sometimes your sixteen year old self has already realized the one thing you know for sure. Don't discount what you feel your life purpose is just because of your age. Most importantly, the endless pursuit of that thing is the best thing you will ever do for yourself. The path you choose is yours, own it and as they say, the truth will set you free. 


Recruiting patients all around the block

Okay so I can't sleep without sharing what happened this evening!! Two of the other volunteers and I were out walking home from getting some groceries. We're three peas in a pod: an American, A Colombian and a Kiwi (New Zealand!) One of the girls needed milk and we had made it all the way home but the two little shops outside our place were out of milk. We back tracked to this little shop run by a girl in her mid-twenties, I had bought milk from her earlier in the day. The other girls made their purchases and on the way out one stopped to look at some bindi's. The shop owner re-started a conversation with her friend that was there and went about her business.

I stood outside and heard her speak and remembered how I had heard her speak only once before and momentarily thought "She sounds like she has a cleft palate." The first time I thought it was over 6 weeks ago and the thought was fleeting. As am I standing there one of the volunteers comes to me and exclaims: "She sounds like she has a palate, eh?!" She affirmed just what I had been pondering! I had worried that maybe I was walking around thinking everyone around me could be a potential patient. It's like when you buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice that car everywhere, I figured I had been assuming too much but my co-worker confirmed my suspicion!

We walked to the flat and I said that I had to get one of the Hindi/Assamese speaking doctors to come back with me to talk to her. We didn't know for sure about her palate unless we looked at and I definitely didn't want to invade her privacy and not even be able to explain myself. I walked right up to the female anesthetists' room and told her what had happened, grabbed my flash light and off we went to talk to the shop owner. We asked her about her palate, explaining that I had recognized her speech pattern. Then sure enough we look inside her mouth and there is a posterior cleft! We told her about our cleft care center, what we do, when/how to come in and wrote down our numbers. She had the hugest grin on her face but asked that we call her parents and explain to them when she got home. I obviously left the anesthetist to do that but I can't believe it!

I really hope that her parents will be as excited as she was and that she gets her surgery as early as next week on our mission! It is a hugely controversial area when it comes to repairing adult cleft palates regarding wether it improves the patient's quality of life. After having a palate repaired as an adult, speech therapy is essential in order to actually improve speech which is usually the reason the patient wants the repair. Many of our patients live hours and hours away in the tea districts and though we have a full time speech therapist, they don't receive the post-surgical therapy that would enhance their outcome. This young woman has THE most potential of any adult palate repair that I have taken care of in regards to improving her quality of life. The hospital and access to our speech therapist is only a 15 minute walk away. Plus, she'd be getting my business consistently for the rest of the time I'm here so that's a plus :)

I am just so excited and can't believe that we stumbled upon her. Here's to hoping she is able to have surgery!


Sage wisdom

Back in February before I came to India for the first time, my best friend Nathalie offered me some sage wisdom:

"It isn't a trip to India unless you s*!t your pants at least once."

 I know that may be a little hard to digest for some of you readers, but it isn't a friendship worth having if you can't be as upfront and honest (and caring) as that. I mean, others I know offered me advice too but Nathalie's choice wisdom haunted me like a bad dream. Somehow I escaped this fate in February. However, this past week I have come to find that this is the most well-founded advice that I received prior to moving here. I got it folks, and I got it bad.

Possible culprits:
-The bottled water jug we drink out of in the apartment. It has been tasting like a combo of tree bark and shoe insoles for weeks now.
-The food I was guilted into eating at the Hare Krishna festival last Sunday. It may not have been the first time that I was served dal and rice out of a 20 gallon bucket, but it might have been the last.
-The cockroach I can't bring myself to kill that hangs out in the kitchen. Now, this may be completely unfounded but that little guy is up to no good all night. I just know it.
-The mass fresh fruits and vegetables I eat on the daily. I refuse to believe that this is the reason because it's all so good.

It all started Monday morning and progressively got worse through the week until I was so dehydrated that  the doctors I work with insisted I get an IV with IV antibiotics. I got all set up in my room and had the IV hanging from my curtain rod. It turned out to be a little problematic with all the trips to the toilet I had to do but I managed. Anyways, I got a day of fluids and IV antibiotics and was feeling better yesterday after being rehydrated. I still wasn't able to eat though. In five days I've eaten 10 slices of bread, a bowl of rice, two bowls of oats and one bit of popcorn. I got yelled at for eating the popcorn, as if I wasn't punished enough by my gut! This evening I've been able to eat a few bananas too so that's progress.

Realizing I'm getting sick:

At home pharmacy:

Looking and feeling like a million bucks

I lost the five pounds I was so proud I gained, I am really bummed about that and I'll probably keep losing because I still can't eat normally. Today I felt the worst physically, I was weak and shaky but I've been eating toast and bananas and green tea so right now I feel pretty much 100%.

I also got upset with the man who came to fix the internet today. He was here for almost four hours and I'm not sure what he was doing because every time I walked by he was on the same screen on my computer. He ended up fixing it and then asked me for a relatively large amount of money. I asked what exactly I was paying for as he had installed the internet last week, it worked for one day then stopped then the company took a week to come out and take a look at it. I got way more upset than I should have and paid him and asked him to go. He left and I felt this crushing guilt. I may have very well been the only American he ever has/ever will meet and I just got upset over internet and money? Then I looked at the flat I live in, the air conditioning I was sitting in, and felt like the worst person. I started crying and knew I shouldn't have treated him that way, even though by most people's standards I didn't even get angry. I ended up calling him and apologizing and thanking him for fixing the problem. I know that the whole situation was inflamed by being sick and hungry and tired but man, it was just another experience that is putting my life into perspective. Then, a few hours later one of the girls came home and I was still shaky and feeling weak and I told her about what happened and started crying again out of shame. I am out of control!!

So all this to say, thank you Nathalie for mentally preparing me for the situations I have faced this week. I may have had a mental breakdown otherwise.


Last week an older gentleman came back to be seen for his post-operative evaluation. I was called out of the recovery room to clean his lip before being seen by the surgeon and having his photos taken. I walked out into the waiting area and saw quite a few adult men sitting, walked further into the room and was looking all around for a man who looked one week post-op but was having no luck. Finally I found the patient care coordinator and asked her where the patient had gone and she pointed to the man who was sitting about 3 feet from me. I was in total disbelief! I knew I recognized a few of the men there, but I was blown away by the fact that just one week after having his (huge) cleft lip repaired I couldn't even tell he had surgery. I just had to talk to him and see if anyone else in his life felt the same sense of disbelief I did. I brought over one of the student volunteers and he told me that indeed, many people in his village did not recognize him. I asked if this was a good or bad thing, was he happy with the surgery. He answered simply "It's as if I am a different man from one week ago, not just in my face or the way that people don't know I am me when I cross the street but it is my whole life that feels different." He pressed his two hands together, raised them to his chest, bowed his head and ended with "Namaste."


What I've been up to

I fully realize there has been a complete lack of life updates, sorry friends and family! It has been very busy around these parts and lots of power outages! The power outages tend to happen at the times of day when I'm most up to blogging, but unable to! I think the monsoon is well on its way. It has been raining everyday, and raining buckets when it does. It is crazy how much rain cools down the place!

I have been doing tons of education with the local staff. I love it! I have been focusing on advanced life support scenarios to prepare them for our upcoming PALS/ACLS classes. Some have even already put some of this knowledge to use, i.e. the patient was bradycardic so the applied oxygen as they supported the ABC's and attached a monitor! That is exactly what the pediatric bradycardia with a pulse algorithm recommends. Next they assessed whether it was stable on unstable bradycardia. I was so proud of them for putting this knowledge to use.

This week we're doing a pretty intense review of ECG/EKGs which is usually the weak point in the classes/certification process. Their enthusiasm and interest in learning is much appreciated on my part. They thank me every time we're done with a session.

I guess that brings me to the fact that my big project I'm undertaking while here is establishing this cleft care center as a PALS/ACLS/BLS training center as well. I will be getting certified to be an instructor the first week of August and soon be teaching the local staff. This is a huge deal, as BLS and advanced life support are not taught here. I hope I have enough time to really get this going!

Additionally I have been doing lots of other education and standardizing our discharge teaching. I'm working on getting the center prepped for the upcoming mission, creating a hepatitis B vaccine protocol for our staff, and developing lots of other teaching sessions beyond ACLS/BLS/PALS.

It's been crazy! By the way I have been here for 2 months, what the heck! Where is the time going?!?!?

Some things I've been roped into recently

Okay so I wouldn't consider this getting "roped into" something but I did recently wear a sari for the first time and I really liked it:

This weekend has been an interesting one to say the least. Friday evening I sat in a hot, dark room full of Indian doctors as they conducted a medical association meeting. The power may have been out but that didn't stop them from forming committees and electing members and arguing a bit. I was told it was going to be a Doctor's Day celebration/dinner but I was sitting there at 930pm in the darkness with no food or celebration in sight wondering how I ended up in this situation. I call this an "Indian moment." Something unique to my time living here. 

Sunday was so awesome. I was invited by one of the other international nurses to a Hare Krishna festival that was going on that day. I am really taking every opportunity I can to learn more about Eastern religion while I'm here so I jumped on the invite. We went to the temple where I almost immediately offended one of the babas. They offered me some holy water and I put out both hands which is a no-no. Right hand only, Kristin! Get it together! Then I accidently spilled some drops. I'm a mess. Luckily, they still let me attend the festival. We headed out to a field where there about 6 speakers followed by a big old 10km procession. There was a whole lot of this:
Then there was the on camera interview myself and my co-worker were asked to do. I kind of figured no one would ever see it but it turned out otherwise. Five people in the office have said they saw me on the news. One girl stated she saw it playing on four channels. So there we go friends, my fifteen minutes of fame mainly involved me rambling on about being thankful for being allowed to participate in the festival.

We were given a bag of books... to sell...